Local Autonomy in 2030


Local Autonomy in 2030


From the Annual and International Congress organised by the Council of European Municipalities and Regions in Nicosia (Cyprus), on 22 April 2016[1], to the post-covid situation (2021): where is local self-government on the way to its completion by 2030?




This article was written by:

GUERARD Stéphane

Associate Professor, qualified to direct research, in public law

Project manager at OLA (Observatory on Local Autonomy)

CERAPS (CNRS, UMR 8026), University of Lille, France

It does not represent the official views of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR).


Every “modern political class” dreams of a “well performing”[2] administration, in the sense that it is effective and efficient, and if possible, inexpensive to run! Firstly, this means efficiency in terms of the overall architecture of the administrative organisation of the state (whether federal, unitary or regional), deconcentrated and/or decentralised (within the federated states and unitary states). It is also in terms of being an efficient administration, well organised, both externally and internally. This efficiency of administrative organisation today implies a “territorial architecture”[3] that is well understood, both externally and internally, open and close to citizens, as well as being responsive and digitalised. In short, it must be simple, accessible and transparent.

Being efficient also means that this administration functions efficiently. Its competences must be clearly defined across tiers of administration. Its resources (financial, human, legal resources, as well as in terms of material, land and property) must be sufficient for the execution of its competences - and consequently, for the provision of public services satisfying its “user-clients”.

In addition, today’s modern administration must carry out its administrative objectives in “collaboration” with the user-clients, stimulate their involvment in the implementation of these objectives, both upstream and downstream. Public administration must become familiar with “co-production”, “association”, “co-decision” and “evaluation”.  It must therefore be economical, and correspond to democratic principle (both in a representative as well as in a participative way), because a “good administration is the one closest to the user-clients”!

For a large number of researchers, especially those advocating New Public Management, the implementation of an “effective and efficient” administration can only be achieved on the basis of “proximity”, i.e. at a local tier, or at least at infranational tier of government. Decentralisation is therefore a priority; although researchers do not specify whether a metropolitan or regional level would maintain this proximity to the user-clients. This leitmotiv, which has become a “obvious”, except in scientific terms, has nevertheless become an crucial objective for major international donors (e.g., World Bank[4], IMF[5], but also the European Union[6]) as well as for the UN (through its UN-Habitat programme[7]), and this has been the case for at least the past thirty years. It would appear that the purpose is also to promote “multi-level governance”. This position is reinforced by the fact that in Europe, populations have a greater level of trust  in their “local” and regional authorities than in their central governments.[8]

Let us assess whether advances towards this this modern administration, better organised and more efficient, are being made. The work explored below takes account of Europe in its largest sense[9] and its 47 Member States[10], focusing on developments since 2008 towards achieving better organised and more efficient local government. To do so, CEMR's data collection and reflection work ( and  the scientific exchanges of the OLA network (Observatory on Local Autonomy: Home - OLA-europe ( were used. Since 2008, OLA has been trying to make such comparisons in terms of local administrative reforms in 41 of the 47 European countries and some non-European countries.[11]

In this respect, it is interesting to note that professors Kulhman and Bouckaert, and their large and experienced team, have reached similar conclusions to ours, and that are always relevant and interesting, in their COST programme.[12] [13]

In the light of the data collected by CEMR, it is therefore appropriate to examine the conditions for the effectiveness of local public administration (I), before looking at the conditions for the efficiency of local public action (II).


I - In search of effective local public administration


A local public administration must be truly “autonomous”, which means that, in compliance with the Constitution and laws, it must be capable of governing itself and “acting”. [14] This raises the question of the transformation of the role of the state, which must learn to become “modest”, and thereby “focus” on its essential objectives... However, the transformation of the internal organisation of a state in order to promote an efficient decentralised system raises the question above all, of the quality of its territorial architecture. This does not only mean the number of tiers of governance, but also of the number of governments per tier of governance. [15]

Since the 7th century, Japan, with a population of around 126.8 million (2017), has had only two levels of local government: 47 departments of modest size and 1,788 more or less large communes. Similarly, in Algeria, with a population of 41.32 million (2017), the national territory is divided into 48 wilayas[16] (the new name for the “old” French departments) and 1,541 communes. More than a “large territory”, [17] it is above all a coherent, efficient and democratic territory where the need for local self-government is essential. This seems to be the position of the Council of Europe, which prefers the administrative and democratic efficiency of proximity compared to the territorial "gigantism”, as stated in the European Charter of Local Self-Government.

Furthermore, territorial division, unlike the beliefs of the European Union, cannot be “standardised”, [18] because a territory is sociologically and economically a dynamic entity. This presupposes a “minimal” history, the population’s attachment to the territory in terms of identity, as well as a socio-economic cohesion. Thus, some territorial structures seem “odd”, as in the Republic of Moldova, [19] unitary state, or Iraq, [20] federal state, which adopted a “mixed” administrative structure, semi-federal and semi-unitary, tinged with administrative decentralisation. This results from the particularity of two territories which benefit from very strong autonomy. They are, respectively, the autonomous territorial unit of Gagauzia and Kurdistan.

Today, Europe is a mosaic of approximately 115.000 local authorities – including almost 113.000 municipalities and just under 35.000 in France alone –, provinces and regions[21] in federal or unitary states. Thus, each state consists of municipal and central governments and sometimes of a regional tier, as well as other forms of intermediate tiers. Whilst the municipality stands as the basic unit of the territorial arrangement, this varies in type and form. The municipality is the last – or the first – link between a territory’ architecture and its citizens.

The municipality is part of a more or less dense administrative coverage where the number of tiers varies across states. It exercises more or less competencies in accordance with an autonomy, mostly legislative, that is at the discretion of the central or federal government.

Hence, a significant number of states are undertaking transformations of the municipal level[22] by creating mergers or inter-municipal cooperations. [23] “It is true that there is a general trend in European countries towards a reorganisation of the fields of local competences and a strengthening of the role of municipalities (…) Devolution processes of regional or state competencies to the municipal level – which occur intensively to a greater or lesser extent in some European countries – come with attempts to redefine and strengthen the role of local authorities through participation and consultation mechanisms in the creation of rules and policies that affect them”. [24] Other developments have been observed: this is the case of the strengthening of inter-municipalities, and in particular of metropolises, which comes at the expense of municipalities.

First and foremost many European countries have undertaken vigorous reforms of their municipal map: from 1950 to 2007[25], the number of municipalities fell by 41% in Germany[26], by 63% in the United Kingdom, by 75% in Belgium[27] and up to 93% in Denmark. As a result, in addition to the decrease of the number of municipalities, Great-Britain gathered together its local and regional governments in 545 districts. Their average population comes close to 104.000 inhabitants and they have a surface area of 468 km². Similarly Finland has lost more than 200 municipalities since 1950, their number dropping from 547 to 309 in 2021.

However, raising questions regarding the amalgamation of the municipal level is a growing phenomenon, especially in those countries where the reform led to a weakening – or impoverished ? – municipal basis. As a consequence, from 1952 to 1974, Sweden – with a current population of 10.171.524 inhabitant (June 2018) – has reduced the number of its municipalities from 2.500 to 277, which represents, on average, 33.191 inhabitants per municipality. [28] But since 1980, Sweden has decided to recreate new municipalities in response to the weakening of local democracy and to counter falls in voter turnout. This has brought the total number of municipalities to 290.

Nevertheless, following the further deepening of the economic crisis in Europe, a number of local governments have been subject to reforms: tiers of local governments have been reduced and local authorities have been merged. This has had a major impact on the administrative and democratic processes in some countries that were hard hit by the “economic re-crisis” such as Greece or Portugal. Notwithstanding small municipalities’ disadvantages in terms of human and financial resources, the significant amount of local elected representatives (nearly half a million in France) across the territory remains an essential factor of democracy and surveillance (in terms of fire in rural areas or in the mountains for example). It is even a key element to fight social exclusion and to contribute to public economy – because the voluntary work of half a million local elected representatives as it is the case in France saves many local public positions, but also national ones...

In addition, none of the European states that have reformed the size and the number of its municipalities, has reached a satisfactory outcome with regards to democracy and management. Moreover, what some countries have gained in savings by merging municipalities, has sometimes been lost, as these mergers have increased the democratic deficit. It has been proved that the smaller the size of a local authority, the higher the electoral participation, and conversely. [29]

And this to such an extent that many European countries, for instance Lithuania, [30] have created devolved administrative structures – for example the very efficient “neighbourhood administrations” of Lithuanian municipalities – within “too large municipalities”, in order to manage “proximity needs” more closely and more efficiently and “recreate contact” with user-clients. In other words, achieving the optimum size for municipalities[31] is an almost endless quest between two opposing objectives, namely local democracy and the quality of public action, especially if the desire for economic rigour influences the achievement of this double objective, as it does today.

However, effective administrative devolution within a large local authority may be a solution to be explored or even developed. This may help to avoid the growth of multiple strategic levels of territorial administration, while preserving a daily administration of public services and at least a “grassroots listening” in the absence of “grassroots democracy”. In this regard, the example of the “Scandinavian municipality” deserves to further and more in-depth examination.

Yet if the effectiveness of territorial administration seems to be gradually taking shape in Europe, according to the ongoing reforms, what about its efficiency or even that of its managerial and democratic action?


II - Towards a rehabilitation of efficiency in local public administration[32]


The efficiency of public administration depends above all on the efficiency of its action, i.e., the local competences it implements via the public services it manages. Throughout Europe, the same twofold problem can be found: the need to clarify the competences delegated and/or their scope, but also the methods of financing them. Indeed, the lack of own resources or even of adequate and sufficient state transfers subsidies to exercise such administrative responsibilities is an almost unanimous criticism of all European local authorities. Moreover, this criticism has been fuelled by the drop in transfers received following the 2008 “re-crisis” as well as by the additional financial burdens resulting from the COVID-19 health crisis. CEMR's collection of local financial data fully reflects these observations.

There can be no decentralisation without sufficient means of action, and no reforms to increase decentralisation without a corresponding increase in means. [33]

This is because effective decentralisation and the operational implementation of local self-government require an appropriate level of financial autonomy for local authorities and therefore, a proper level of own-resources. This allows them to prepare a development strategy over at least one term of office (4 to 6 years, on average, in European local authorities) and consequently, to have financial visibility regarding their investments. The primary consequence of being too dependent on the central state for transfers subsidies is naturally that transfers subsidies increase or decrease according to the needs of the central government. This has been the case across Europe in the years following the deepening of the economic crisis of 2008. The most vocal on this point are European local authorities which, in certain countries, no longer hesitate to sue the central government in the event of insufficient allocations.

On 25 March 1852, Napoleon III adopted a decree containing the famous formula: “one can govern from afar, but one can only administer well from close by; consequently, as much as it is important to centralise the governmental action of the state, it is also necessary to decentralise the administrative action”. Indeed, the role of the administrative power close to the territories is to help them develop. Through development, there is naturally the satisfaction of public services provided to user-clients.

As a result, development seems to be the mainspring of “globalisation” and the concept of “decentralisation”, but it is also destined to be the mainspring of a future UN International Charter of Local Self-Government. Within the framework of its UN-Habitat programme, the UN would like to promote such a Charter, following the adoption of the International Guidelines on Decentralisation and Local Development. Indeed, in Western Europe, decentralisation is often presented as a political project rather than an economic and social project.

Moreover, the Council of Europe also advocates this political approach of decentralisation, which is also found in the European Charter of Local Self-Government. This Charter does not talk about development, but rather about respect for democracy, the status of local elected representatives, [34] etc., without imposing effective rules of territorial organisation.

The Charter gives a theoretical reading, in the “legal-political” sense, of decentralisation. It does not therefore offer a key to any ideal “territorial architecture”, if such an architecture exists. [35]

This is also reflected in the 12 principles of good governance enshrined by the Council of Europe.[36] Subsidiarity expresses the idea that the central authority should have a subsidiary function by carrying out only those tasks that cannot be done efficiently at a lower or local level. [37] Yet the principle of subsidiarity[38] - enshrined in the UN Habitat Agenda since 1996 and considered by the UN-Habitat Governing Council since 2003 as the very basis of any decentralisation process - is traditionally associated with federalism. It protects the residual field of competence of the federal state more than the competences, mostly widely understood, of the federated states. In short, subsidiarity is one of the characteristics of federalism, which aims to prevent all decisions concerning society from being taken at a higher level than is necessary. [39]

As Resolution 22/8 adopted within the framework of the UN-Habitat programme[40] recalls so well, decentralisation is the “administrative organisation of proximity” that helps facilitate, at the best possible cost, the development of basic services (water, telecommunications, energy, transport, health, education, security, for example) as closest to the ground.[41] This allows the most effective efforts in fighting against development delays and therefore poverty, both in urban areas, [42] and rural areas. The quality of basic public services ensures above all, according to the UN philosophy - which at the same time promotes decentralisation as the best form of public governance - the quality of life, human dignity and the sustainability of livelihoods.

If countries want the satisfaction of the “user-clients” , they need to pay the price of the development of the local authorities. This means organising the best distribution of the national financial resources between the central government and the infra-state tiers of governance. However, this distribution must be done according to a distribution key that should be fixed in advance, legislatively or even constitutionally.

It is a major deficiency of the European Charter of Local Self-Government that the issue of legal guarantees for the financial autonomy of local authorities has not been sufficiently developed. A share of income and/or property taxes should be automatically allocated to these authorities, so that they only depend on state subsidies for 25% or, at most, 33% of their financial resources.

How can a state usefully and effectively transfer administrative powers to its local authorities to ensure quality of public service management, without providing those with financial resources proportionate to the related tasks and therefore denying them any financial visibility?

All European local authorities complain about the transfer of competences without adequate resources, especially as they exercise them under their sole remit of responsibility. [43] This complaint goes far beyond the borders of Europe. Admittedly, some local authorities can sometimes find margins for savings, but there are a limited number - and this often concerns only the richest (and even then ...).

Nevertheless, it is not, in absolute terms, normal for the state to avoid its own reform to the detriment of local authorities, and above all to the detriment of the quality of local public services, with consequences such as the reduction and/or, sometimes, the disappearance of such services...

Consequently, this not only affects  the possibility for local authorities to reform themselves. It also impacts on their ability to recruit quality personnel, invest in effective actions (and therefore, sometimes, expansive ones), train this personnel, and to gradually build a remuneration / reward policy, aimed at promoting staff promotion, motivation and investment in work.[44] Especially since one should not be naive, it is sometimes very difficult to impose strict ethics on public officials, whose salaries are lowered, for no apparent reason from 25 to 40 % in one year, as it has been done after the economic crisis of 2008 respectively in Romania and Latvia. [45]

How, in such cases, not to hypocritically feed the corruption of public officials? How, in these conditions, can we speak of code of good conduct or public integrity? What did civil servants do to deserve such a “treatment”? The same can be said of states which, like France, have been operating for very or even too many years, under the guise of social negotiations in the public service, which are ultimately not, a salary freeze? In Italy, such measures have been the subject of an annulment by the Constitutional Court (decision n°178-2015 of June 24, 2015[46]), having obliged the Italian state to “unfreeze” the remuneration of its civil servants...

Whatever the views of some national elected officials, the “legal status” of civil servants protects them more than contracts in terms of controlling public expenditure, because, as the Scandinavian states illustrate, any developed recourse to the contract goes hand in hand with the essential promotion of genuine social negotiation; which then becomes a danger for public employers, who take increasingly fewer decisions alone, and especially not / not any longer without the agreement of the unions representing the public sector... [47]

Impoverishing local authorities is also, indirectly but surely, impacting on the investment policy, both material and human, of local authorities, and ultimately, disadvantaging user-clients, who are, however, the main contributors to a state's revenue.

In terms of material reforms, the decline in state allocations also often slows down, and unfortunately, the (expensive, but so useful) programmes for the digitalisation of procedures, which nevertheless foster administrative transparency as much as participatory democracy[48]. It also ensures a better understanding of the organisation and functioning of local administrations.

By the same token, digitalisation also allows better information on the rights and obligations of citizens as well as better responsiveness of administrative services. It also contributes to the legal simplification of local public action. However, its implementation is often expensive, in terms of qualified staff to recruit, equipment to buy, programming time, adaptation and updating programmes and software, experimentation, staff training or even user-client training...




The motto of the European Union is simple “United in diversity”. And although the forces of standardisation are at work within the framework of the construction of the European Union, it is absolutely necessary to resist them, in terms of evolution and reforms of the systems of local administration in Europe. Because each of the 47 states, making up Europe, is the product of a history, of an identity, national and local,[49] but also of a legal-political tradition, which is specific to it.

In short, and beyond the diversity of the territorial organisation of European states, two questions arise:

- should priority be given to organisational uniformity, or diversity, to better take into account local specificities?

- Should local authorities be brought together to systematically constitute “larger” ones?

Are the standardisation and amalgamation of local authorities a source of real savings and optimal administrative efficiency? Nothing is less certain, as the economic benefits are sometimes “outweighed” by the democratic and social disadvantages.

So here we are, a contemporary debate now affecting local authorities, in terms of evaluating the effectiveness of territorial reforms or even the improvement of local government systems in Europe. Managers know this much better than lawyers: how to find the balance between the material and objective advantages / indicators and the qualitative and subjective advantages / indicators…

While everyone knows how to define decentralisation, much remains to be done to reinvent it in the twenty-first century, with the aim of establishing an effective and efficient, modern public administration.

But all this hangs on the question of the will of the central government to “transform itself functionally” and to accept, politically, to genuinely play, the “card” of the decentralisation of competences. In particular as regards the financing aspects and even, more broadly, as concerns other resources such as human capital.


[1] Guérard (S.), Une vision locale et régionale de l’Europe 2030, in Conseil des communes et des régions d’Europe, Europe 2030. Les territoires prennent la parole. Local leaders speak out, Editions Autrement, January 2018, 10 p.

[2] Cucu (A.), La performance publique dans la politique de recherche de l’Union Européenne  entre management et gouvernance. La construction de l’Espace Européen de Recherche par la coordination et le soft law, Thesis, public law, Université de Lille, 2019.

[3] Guérard (S.), Comparaisons européennes des administrations locales : vers une administration locale mieux organisée et plus performante ?, in Fragments d’univers, Mélanges en l’honneur du Professeur Jean-Marie Pontier, PUAM, 2020, p. 253-277.

[4] .

See also: Pyndt (H.) and Steffensen (J.), World Bank Review of Selected Experiences with Donor Support to Decentralisation in East Africa, LGDK and NCG, 2005 : .

However, of all the international donors, it should be noted that the World Bank is currently the only one to be more reserved about decentralisation as the "key to all development problems"; in recent years, it has greatly softened its position on this subject: Litvak (J.), Ahmad (J.) et Bird (R.), Rethinking decentralization in developing countries, World Bank Institute, 1998 ( ) ; Litvak (J.) and Seddon (J.), Decentralisation briefing notes, World Bank Institute, 1999 ( ).

[5] Sow (M.) and Razafimahefa (I. F.), Fiscal decentralization and the Efficiency of public service delivery, IMF Woring paper, December 2014.

[6] Since the end of the 1990s, the European Union has begun to define and develop its own concept of "decentralised cooperation", just as it has gradually associated "promotion of decentralised governance" with "local development and the fight against poverty". This community awareness was created in the wake of the adoption of the European Charter of Local Self-Government within the Council of Europe - opened for signature on 15 October 1985, this charter came into force on 1 September 1988 - and the adoption of the UN Habitat programme (1996). In March 2007, the European Parliament even adopted a Resolution entitled "Local authorities as actors for development". In this context, in 2008 the European Commission launched PLATFORMA (, a body financed, in part, by the European Union but also by many associations of local authorities and even large and wealthy European local authorities, in conjunction with the Council of European Municipalities and Regions ( PLATFORMA promotes development actions in conjunction with local and regional authorities to provide concrete solutions to the daily life of local populations by strengthening local governance, decentralisation and the development of basic or essential public services. In 2013, the European Commission reiterated its support for these missions in a very important document (Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions. Empowering local authorities in partner countries for better governance and more effective development results, COM(2013) 280 final, 15 May 2013).

[7] Resolution 21/3 on the Guidelines on decentralisation and strengthening of local authorities of 20 April 2007 and Resolution 22/8 on the Guidelines on access to basic services for all of 3 April 2009:

[8] Eurobarometre, The role and impact of local and regional authorities within the European Union, Special Eurobarometer 307, February 2009, p. 9.

[9] Boulet (M.), Les collectivités territoriales dans le processus d’intégration européenne, Thesis, Public Law, Besançon, 2010, L’Harmattan, Collection “GRALE”, 2012 ; Colavitti (R.), Le statut des collectivités infra-étatiques européennes. Entre organe et sujet, Thesis, Aix-Marseille, 2012, Bruylant, Collection “Droit de l’Union européenne”, 2015 ; Kada (N.), Les collectivités territoriales dans l’Union européenne. Vers une Europe décentralisée ?, PUG, 2010 ; Monjal (P.-Y.), Droit européen des collectivités locales, LGDJ, Collection “Systèmes », 2010 ; Pauliat (H.) (under the direction of), L’autonomie des collectivités territoriales en Europe : une source potentielle de conflits ?, PULIM, 2004 ; Pontier (J.-M.), (under the direction of), Les Etats intermédiaires en droit administratif, Presse universitaires d’Aix-Marseille, 2008 ; Potvin-Solis (under the direction of), Les effets du droit de l’Union européenne sur les compétences des collectivités territoriales, L’Harmattan, Collection “GRALE”, 2013.

See also: Auby (J.-B.), L’Europe de la décentralisation, RFD, 1995, n°1, p. 16-25 ; Belloubet-Frier (N.), Vers un modèle européen d’administration locale ?, RFAP, 2007, n°121-122, p. 5-18 ; Pontier (J.-M.), L’Europe des collectivités territoriales, AJDA, 2003, n°18, p. 913.

[10] Five of these are federal (Germany, Austria, Belgium, Russia and Switzerland), two are of the so-called "regional" type (Spain and Italy); the other 40 are unitary states, although the United Kingdom, since the devolution laws passed in 1998, especially with regard to Scotland (not forgetting the negative referendum on self-determination of 18 September 2014, the issue of which could resurface in the event of a "no deal" Brexit with the European Union), has a state status that is difficult to classify.

[11] Astrauskas (A.) et Guérard (S.) (under the direction of), Local Autonomy in the 21st Century. Between Tradition and Modernisation. L’autonomie locale au XXIe siècle. Entre tradition et modernisation, LGDJ Lextenso Editions, Institut universitaire Varenne, Collection “Kultura », June 2016 ; Vandelli (L.) et Guérard (S.) (under the direction of), The impact of the economic crisis on local governments in Europe. L’impact de la crise économique sur les collectivités locales en Europe, LGDJ Lextenso Editions, Institut universitaire Varenne, Collection “Kultura”, May 2017 ; Geis (M.-E.), Guérard (S.) et Volmerange (X.) (under the direction of), A Threat to Autonomy? Control and Supervision of local and regional government activities. Les contrôles de l’action publique locale et régionale : une autonomie menacée ?, LGDJ Lextenso Editions, Institut universitaire Varenne, Collection “Kultura”, April 2018 ; Malikova (L.), Delaneuville (F.), Giba (M.) et Guérard (S.) (under the direction of), Metropolisation, Regionalisation and Rural intermunicipal cooperation.. What impact on local, regional and national governments in Europe ? Métropolisation, Régionalisation et intercommunalité rurale. Quel impact sur les autorités locales, régionales et centrales en Europe ?, LGDJ Lextenso Editions, Institut universitaire Varenne, Collection “Kultura”, December 2018.

See also: Belloubet-Frier (N.), Vers un modèle européen d’administration locale ?, RFAP, n°121-122, 2007, p. 5-18 ; Claret (P.), L’influence de l’intégration européenne sur les institutions territoriales des Etats membres, in Illessy (I.), Constitutional Consequences of the EU Membership (Conséquences constitutionnelles de l’adhésion à l’UE), University of Pécs, Faculty of Law, 2005, p. 97-112 ; Marcou (G.), Les collectivités locales dans les Constitutions unitaires en Europe, Les nouveaux cahiers du Conseil constitutionnel, January 2014, n°42, p. 63-87 ; Marcou (G.), Les réformes des collectivités territoriales en Europe : problématiques communes et idiosyncrasies, RFAP, 2012, n°141, p. 183-205 ; Schöndorf-Haubold (B.), L’émergence d’un droit commun de l’autonomie territorial en Europe, RFAP, 2007, n°121-122, p. 203-218.

[12] COST Action IS1207, “Local Public Sector Reforms:An International Comparison (LocRef) ” (28 March 2013-27 March 2017) :|Name:overview.

[13] Bouckaert (G.), Kuhlmann (S.) and Schwab (C.) (under the direction of), L’avenir des administrations locales en Europe, IGPDE, 2018.

See also: Kuhlmann (S.) and Wollmann (H.), Introduction to comparative administration. Adminsitrative systems and reforms in Europe, Edward Elgar, 2014 ; Ladner (A.), Keuffer (N.) and Baldersheim (H.), Local autonomy index for European countries (1990-2014), Release 1.0, European Commission, 2015.

[14] This is the essence of autonomy, even for a human being: Cour des Comptes, Le maintien à domicile des personnes âgées en perte d'autonomie. Une organisation à améliorer, des aides à mieux cibler, Report, July 2016, p. 1.

[15] Baldersheim (H.) et Rose (L. E.) (eds), Territorial choice of boundaries and borders, Palgave Macmillan, 2010.

[16] Each wilaya is divided into daïras (548, at present, throughout the Algerian national territory), but it should be noted that while the commune and the wilaya are proper local authorities, with legal personality and expressing the principles (democracy, free administration) of decentralisation enshrined in the current Algerian Constitution and law, the daïras are deconcentrated districts of the state and as such do not have legal personality, since they are 'simple' territories for action by the Algerian state.

[17] Dahl (R. A.) et Tufte (E. R.), Size and Democracy, Standford University Press, 1973.

[18] Pontier (J.-M.), L’administration territoriale : le crépuscule de l’uniformité ?, Rev. adm., 2002, p. 628-638.

[19] Orlov (M.), with the collaboration of Gabriela Condurache and Stéphane Guérard, Le pouvoir local en République de Moldavie, Report, 2014, 60 p :

[20] The Constitution of 15 October 2005 officially created a federal Iraqi state (art. 1), which for now includes only one federated state on part of its territory (Kurdistan, a federated region by virtue of article 117-1 of this constitution). Previously, since the Constitution of 16 July 1970, and until the fall of Saddam Hussein, Iraq was a highly centralised unitary state. The rest of the Iraqi territory is therefore not federated and is governed by the principle of administrative decentralisation.

[21] CEMR, National associations of local and regional governments in Europe, CEMR Report, 12 June 2019, p. 3.

[22] Doucy (M.), Le statut des communes, en France, en questions, Mémoire de master, droit public, Université de Lille, 2019.

[23] Teles (F.), Local governance and inter-municipal coopération, Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.

[24] Nogueira Lopez (A.), Dévolution de compétences du niveau régional vers le niveau local : décentralisation, asymétrie et concertation, RFAP, 2007/1, n° 121-122, p. 161-162.

[25] In the European Union, several states, and not the least important ones, have succeeded in regrouping their municipalities from 1950 to 2007:

  • Germany from 14,338 to 8,414 (a drop of 41%) but now has 12,629, due to reunification
  • Austria went from 4,039 to 2,357 (a 42% decrease)
  • the United Kingdom from 1,118 to 406 (63% decrease)
  • Belgium from 2,359 to 589 (75% decrease)
  • Latvia from 524 to 119 (77% decrease)
  • Sweden from 2,281 to 290 (87% decrease)
  • Denmark from 1387 to 98 (almost 93% decrease)

Only Spain has experienced a non-significant decrease of 12% (from 9,214 to 8,111 municipalities). France itself has lost 5%  since 2015 (34,970 on 1 January 2019), thanks to the creation of "new municipalities".

[26] Geis (M.-E.), Madeja (S.) et Thirmeyer (S.), Local self-government in Germany, 2011 : .

[27] Pilet (J.-B.), L’autonomie locale en Belgique, 2009 : .

[28] [28] Darnaud (M.), La revitalisation de l’échelon communal, Sénat, Rapport d’information, n°110, 7 November 2018, p. 19.

[29] Borghesi (C.), Hernandez (L.), Louf (R.) et Caparros (F.), Universal size effects for populations in group-outcome decision making, Physical Review, 2013.

[30] Loizidou (L.) and Masler-Törnström (G.), Local and regional democracy in Lithuania, Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, Council of Europe Publishing, 2012.

[31] Vandelli (L.), La difficile recherche de l’optimum dimensionnel des communes italiennes : entre fusions et coopérations, RFAP, 2017, n°162, p. 327-338.

[32] Guérard (S.), Défis et obstacles du management public local, Cahiers scientifiques de l’Institut de sciences administratives de la République de Moldavie, 2012, p. 269-277.

[33] Gruber (A.), La décentralisation et les institutions administratives, Masson & Armand Colin, 1996, p. 216.

[34] Stated and promoted in Article 10 of the European Charter of Local Self-Government.

[35] Guérard (S.), L’autonomie locale en Europe : mythe ou réalité ? L’image idéale de l’autonomie locale, telle que décrite et promue par le Conseil de l’Europe (Congrès des pouvoirs locaux et régionaux), est-elle possible (au sens de réalisable) ?, in Astrauskas (A.) et Guérard (S.) (sous la direction de), Local Autonomy in the 21st Century. Between Tradition and Modernisation. L’autonomie locale au XXIe siècle. Entre tradition et modernisation, LGDJ Lextenso éditions, Institut universitaire Varenne, Collection « Kultura », June 2016, p. 379- 400.


[37] Olsen (H.-B.), Décentralisation et gouvernance locale, Module 1 : Définitions et concepts, éd. Département fédéral des affaires étrangères (DFAE), Suisse, 2007, p. 6.

[38] Duranthon (A.), Subsidiarité et collectivités territoriales. Etude sur la subsidiarisation des rapports entre Etat et collectivités territoriales en droit public français, Thèse, droit public, Toulouse, 2015, Dalloz, Collection « Bibliothèque parlementaire et constitutionnelle », 2017.

See also : Gaudemet (Y.), Libres propos sur la subsidiarité, spécialement en Europe, Mélanges P. Amselek, Bruylant, 2005, p. 315-329.

[39] Olsen (H.-B.), op. cit., p. 6.

[40] Resolution 22/8 on the Guidelines on access to basic services for all of 3 April 2009

[41] Partenariat français pour la ville et les territoires, Accès aux services de base pour tous et appui aux processus de décentralisation : expériences, pratiques et recommandations du partenariat français pour la ville et les territoires, Agence française du développement, 2012 :

[42] The UN-Habitat programme has planned to focus on urbanisation in its 2020-2025 strategic plan, since, according to the United Nations Economic and Social Council, by 2030, 67% of the world's population will be living in urban areas, and poverty, humanitarian crises and conflicts are increasingly urban phenomena today. Since 2011, the European average of urban inhabitants is even higher than this future average; this makes the metropolis a geographical reality, which is still not a legal reality...

[43] As points 4 and 5 of Article 4 of the European Charter of Local Self-Government recognised

[44] Guérard (S.) (dir.), Training of local public servants and officials in Europe (rapport_ola_en.pdf ( The training of local public officials and local elected officials in Europe (OLA-CNFPT Report), CNFPT editions, September 2021 (version available online on the CNFPT website: Our studies | Study on the training of regional officials and local elected officials in Europe | The CNFPT), 405 p. : direction and scientific participation.

[45] Grudilis (M.), Jaunzeme (K.), Petrvoskis (A.), Stucka (A.) and Ziedonis (R.), Local self-government in Latvia, 2011 : .

[46] file:///C:/Users/Stephane%20Guerard/Documents/Mes%20documents/recherches/DFP%20et%20GRH%20dans%20la%20FP/Rémunération%20et%20Italie/La%20décision%20de%20la%20CC%20italienne%20sur%20le%20gel%20de%20l'indice%20de%20%20salaire%20(2015).pdf .

[47] See also : Condurache (G.), Les défis juridiques de la fonction publique en Roumanie : entre tradition et modernisation. Etude comparée à partir de l’exemple français, Thèse, droit public, Lille, 2018.

[48] Dahl (R. A.), A democratic dilemma. System effectiveness versus Citizen participation, Political Science Quarterly, volume 10, 1994, n°1, p. 23-34 ; Dahl (R. A.), The city in the future of democracy, American political science review, 1967, p. 953-970.

[49] Pontier (J.-M.), Identité territoriale ?, AJDA, 2018, n°27, p. 1513.